We know it’s hard to find that dream summer villa in the mad rush after Christmas, so we’ve done some sleuthing and found 10 gorgeous cottages, converted barns, farmhouses and villas for your perfect family holiday.
There are 11 of these hugely popular beach cottages on magical car-free Tresco. Most are one-bedroomed with a sofabed for additional guests; larger ones come with 3 bedrooms. Either way, you’ll spend most of your time out and about with all those ruined castles and gorgeous beaches to explore, bicycles to hire, hidden treehouses to find, boats to sail, and kayaks to paddle. There’s even a heated swimming pool and 2 tennis courts on site. Get in there quick!
This 19th-century 4-bedroom hippy-chic house is exceptionally child-friendly with a full range of baby and toddler gear, playroom and kids books and toys for all ages. The lovely large pool comes with alarm bracelets, a slide and inflatables. The 15-acre flowering garden also has a stilted Wendy House, swings and seesaw.
Two of these immaculate hillside houses have pools, gardens and 3 bedrooms apiece – plus exquisite views across the turquoise Ionian Sea. Interiors have fresh, original touches, and open-plan living spaces leading onto sun terraces. You’re surrounded by vineyards, glorious beaches are close by, and a proper taverna serving what’s freshest that morning is just 15 minutes’ stroll downhill.
Gastronomically renowned Istria is the peninsula on Croatia’s most northerly coastline. This 6-bedroom stone farmhouse has a commanding position with long views to the River Mirna valley and medieval hilltop village Motovun, and comes with an all-weather sports court, a help-yourself kitchen garden, a huge heated swimming pool, and playground. Perfect for 1-3 families holidaying together.
A perennially popular retreat, these 6 delightful cottages horseshoe around a broad garden, looking out to a wooded valley. You can arrange for a welcome hamper of goodies to be waiting for you on arrival, and there’s a vegetable patch to help yourself to, so you can conjure up wonderful feasts for your family. There’s also a shared pool, tennis court, table football, boules and great walking from your front door – why not take one of the resident dogs with you? Best of all, there are donkeys to ride!
Set a short way inland and equidistant from Lisbon and Porto, this once-abandoned hamlet with stunning views of the emerald Sico Valley has been transformed into a cluster of 11 great-value cottages, all of which can take children. You get both eco principles and super-stylish living spaces (think mid-century modern meets ethnic), a private garden, an on-site restaurant if self-catering seems like a chore, and a blissful walled garden with pool.
You’re tucked away in a gorgeous part of the world: a lake-filled valley inland from Salcombe (so fabulous beaches within 20-30 minutes), in a sociable homestead created from ancient stone farm buildings. There are 6 cosy family cottages (the largest have 3 bedrooms) sharing an indoor pool, tennis court, ride-on tractors, games field and mini-playground.
This tranquil 3-bedroom villa with shady terrace is wrapped in fantastic lush gardens, and has long views out to sea, best viewed from its sun-trap roof terrace. You’re a 5-minute stroll from golden sandy beaches (bring the buckets; spades and fishing nets supplied for rock-pooling) and can head out on boat trips to spot dolphins. Tarifa is a world-class kitesurfing and windsurfing mecca; great to watch, or for older kids and parents to have lessons.
In the foothills of the jagged Apuan Alps you’ll find this pair of villas, with a swimming pool and enclosed gardens apiece. There’s a 3-bed turn-of-the-century villa on the outskirts of Pieve di Camaiore with valley views, and a 3-storey restored stone dwelling higher on the slopes with sensational vertiginous vistas to the coast. The latter can be divided into 2 apartments sleeping a family each. There are beaches, walking trails and caves to discover – plus, amazing regional restaurants.
North Crete’s picturesque Apokoronas region has harvested olives for centuries; this lavish rental is in a former 18th-century olive press, and comes with 3 superbly stylish semi-independent suites plus a cosy cottage. All share a secluded garden and idyllic swimming pool. A Cretan breakfast is included in the rates if you book a suite on its own; there’s a kitchen for self-catering if taking the whole place.